Traditionally, feasibility studies have been (and are) conducted by campaign consultants who are hired to interview your best prospective donors prior to a capital campaign. The idea is to get honest feedback about your plans and campaign goal.
While this type of pre-campaign readiness strategy has worked well for many years, there are also serious flaws, which most consultants ignore or deny.
At the Capital Campaign Toolkit, we think it’s critical to get feedback from key leaders and prospective donors prior to going into a campaign.
When it comes to testing the feasibility of a capital campaign (aka soliciting feedback), we’ve identified three distinct options.
5 Key Reasons to Test Your Campaign’s Feasibility
Before we get to the three options, let’s look at the key reasons to do a feasibility study:
- Requires a clear plan — Preparing to speak to your largest potential donors requires you get organized and develop a specific plan. You can’t go to donors with a vague idea of what you’re considering.
- Engages prospective donors — Pre-campaign conversations are a unique opportunity to engage donors prior to asking them for a gift. You won’t want to miss this important chance to get their honest feedback and advice.
- Forces focus on top donors — You won’t be able to speak with hundreds of people, so the idea of interviewing donors will force you to narrow your list.
- Gives the board confidence — Getting buy-in from key donors who have the capacity to make your campaign a success will give your board members the confidence necessary to proceed with the plans.
- Provides outside perspective — Speaking with people outside your innermost circle will provide you with a realistic picture of your organization and your vision for a campaign.
If you have board members or leaders on staff who are inclined to skip a feasibility study, present your counterarguments using the above reasons.
3 Ways to Test Your Campaign’s Feasibility
Here are three different ways to approach a feasibility study for your campaign.
1. Traditional (Consultant-Led)
As mentioned above, the most traditional approach to testing the feasibility of a campaign is consultant-led. That means an outside consultant conducts the interviews with potential donors.
The key selling point of this type of study, in addition to deep experience of the consultant, is that interviews are confidential and anonymous. Unfortunately, that leads to a lack of transparency in the consultant’s final report and recommendations. Oftentimes, nonprofit leaders are left scratching their heads as to who said what.
2. Do-It-Yourself (Staff-Led)
At the opposite end of the feasibility spectrum (from a consultant-led feasibility study) is DIY (do-it-yourself) interviews.
Typically, if an organization decides not to hire a consultant, they skip the feasibility study stage altogether. However…
Skipping a feasibility study is like sticking your head in the sand and just praying your campaign will go well. (Not a good idea.)
Rather than skipping this important pre-campaign planning step, identify two or three people at your organization who will speak with donors about your plans. This is usually the ED/CEO, DOD and a board member.
While informal, this type of study will accomplish some of the same results as the traditional model and has the clear benefit of building relationships with key donors prior to asking for gifts. Not only that, donors will feel like “insiders” by being brought into the campaign at this very early stage.
3. Guided (Hybrid) (Nonprofit and Consultant Collaboration)
If you think of a spectrum of types of feasibility studies, with the Consultant-Led version being one extreme and DIY the other, then Guided Feasibility Studies are right-smack in the middle, combining the best of both other worlds.
A Guided Feasibility Study is where nonprofit leaders do the interviews with significant guidance and training from an experienced consultant. The outcome is the best of both of scenarios #1 and #2. The interviews are fully transparent and nonprofit leaders get to build relationships directly with donors prior to asking them for gifts.
Since the staff members doing the interviews are not “winging-it” (as they are in DIY donor interviews), and since the consultant is validating findings, your board can have full confidence in the final report and recommendations to move forward with a campaign.
Learn More About Guided Feasibility Studies
Full discloser — part of the suite of campaign services we provide at the Capital Campaign Toolkit includes Guided Feasibility Studies. So, granted, we’re a little biased. But you can’t dispute our reasoning for preferring this method, nor can you dispute the positive results our clients have had.
Take a look at the 5-minute video below to learn more about the Guided Feasibility Study process and their results:
Click here to learn if a Guided Feasibility Study is right for your organization. You might be surprised by just how effective it is.